Articles | Volume 11, issue 5
Research article
01 Mar 2011
Research article |  | 01 Mar 2011

Radiative impact of mineral dust on monsoon precipitation variability over West Africa

C. Zhao, X. Liu, L. Ruby Leung, and S. Hagos

Abstract. The radiative forcing of dust and its impact on precipitation over the West Africa monsoon (WAM) region is simulated using a coupled meteorology and aerosol/chemistry model (WRF-Chem). During the monsoon season, dust is a dominant contributor to aerosol optical depth (AOD) over West Africa. In the control simulation, on 24-h domain average, dust has a cooling effect (−6.11 W m−2) at the surface, a warming effect (6.94 W m−2) in the atmosphere, and a relatively small TOA forcing (0.83 W m−2). Dust modifies the surface energy budget and atmospheric diabatic heating. As a result, atmospheric stability is increased in the daytime and reduced in the nighttime, leading to a reduction of late afternoon precipitation by up to 0.14 mm/h (25%) and an increase of nocturnal and early morning precipitation by up to 0.04 mm/h (45%) over the WAM region. Dust-induced reduction of diurnal precipitation variation improves the simulated diurnal cycle of precipitation when compared to measurements. However, daily precipitation is only changed by a relatively small amount (−0.17 mm/day or −4%). The dust-induced change of WAM precipitation is not sensitive to interannual monsoon variability. On the other hand, sensitivity simulations with weaker to stronger absorbing dust (in order to represent the uncertainty in dust solar absorptivity) show that, at the lower atmosphere, dust longwave warming effect in the nighttime surpasses its shortwave cooling effect in the daytime; this leads to a less stable atmosphere associated with more convective precipitation in the nighttime. As a result, the dust-induced change of daily WAM precipitation varies from a significant reduction of −0.52 mm/day (−12%, weaker absorbing dust) to a small increase of 0.03 mm/day (1%, stronger absorbing dust). This variation originates from the competition between dust impact on daytime and nighttime precipitation, which depends on dust shortwave absorption. Dust reduces the diurnal variation of precipitation regardless of its absorptivity, but more reduction is associated with stronger absorbing dust.

Final-revised paper